Young Hockey Player Inspires Community

Young Hockey Player Inspires Community

By all accounts, Cole Harbour resident Michael Rumsby is a typical thirteen year-old boy who loves playing soccer and hockey. So, in the fall of 2010, Michael and his family were shocked by his diagnosis of a malignant Non-Germinoma germ cell tumour of the pineal gland. While the brain tumour has temporarily slowed Michael down, it hasn’t stopped him. His love of sports and the support of his community have helped him on his journey and together, the family are supporting Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada’s 2011 Spring Sprint  (now Brain Tumour Walk) event this weekend.

Michael’s diagnosis came after a short time filled with headaches, sinus and vision issues, and even migraines. These seemingly unconnected symptoms were explained by a variety of things including: playing sports in the heat, puberty, and stress about flying on an upcoming trip to Ottawa. After a discussion of possibilities, the family doctor ordered a CT scan. Michael’s mom, Michelle, remembers the day the results were in, “Michael went off to school and a few hours later my doctor called to say they found a mass on Michael’s brain. I was caught off guard and the room just started spinning.”

That same day, Michael was admitted to hospital for blood work, an MRI and then on September 10, 2010, an Endoscopic Third Ventriculostomy (ETV) surgery to relieve the cerebral fluid pressure on his brain. The following week he began 18 weeks of chemotherapy, taking place every three weeks for three-to-five days in hospital through to January. Through the exams, spots were also found on Michael’s spine but halfway through the chemotherapy they were gone. This past January Michael had second MRI and the brain tumour was still present. On February 11, 2011, Michael had surgery to remove most of the tumour. Since then he has endured an additional 30 treatments of radiation.

While diagnosis and treatments have not been easy on Michael or his family, the fact that Michael was told there would be no hockey this season became his main focus. “When Michael hadn’t particpated during hockey tryouts, the word spread through the association,” says Michelle. A couple of weeks later Michelle received a call from coach Paul Mason to invite Michael to be part of the team. “Paul knew that being a part of the team and the support of a team would be important to focus on rather than just on his condition.”

During a break between chemotherapy treatments, Michael was feeling well enough to join his team on a tournament in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The tournament was part of the Winter Classic. Michael’s coaches wanted to give Michael the opportunity to play one shift of non-contact hockey alongside his teammates, since he had not been able to play any games but only practice with his team. Coach Mason contacted the other teams requesting one shift without checking so that Michael could play worry-free – Michael was able to play throughout the entire tournament.

Michael remembers how supportive his team was during his treatment: “When I was in the hospital during chemotherapy my team brought me in a jersey and the entire team showed up with all the coaches. They showed me my jersey with the ‘C’ on it and they said they wanted me to be Captain because the captain fights for the team,” recounts Michael. “We had an amazing time together in Pittsburgh I was able to play hockey and we got to meet Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux.”

Michael and his family are grateful for the support they received from Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada including the website, newsletter, and the Pediatric Brain Tumour Patient Resource Book. “They gave us a whole bag of things to deal with,” recalls Michael. Michelle reminds others that, “Life doesn’t stop with a brain tumour and you can have a normal life. Michael is and will continue to be an active member of society and live life.”

“Mom said that if people hear about it they’ll be inspired and it will help others and I just want to help other people,” says Michael. His mom agrees; “When I think of all the support that we’ve had, we wanted to give back. We’ve set up Team Michael for the May 14 Spring Sprint.”

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Story posted: May 2011

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